Databall_ is a pinball machine that visualises the flow of personal data, making kids aware of their online tracks in a playful way.

Children grow up in a digital world without understanding the true value of personal information. Through their smart phones and tablets they leave traces all over the internet without realising it. This fun game shows the score and boosts awareness.

Sixty balls represent the data, which cover all aspects of daily digital life – from chat history to photo’s and online purchases. They bounce past interested parties: data traders, the government, supervising authorities and criminals. Hitting the data trader pop-bumpers wins you points, but beware of getting hacked: then it’s game over.

“Do we continue to play this game, knowing that we forfeit our data?”


"We communicate, and sometimes it goes wrong." 

That is the essence of what childeren need to learn about data. But what data is collected about you? Who is involved? And how does data get traded?

How would data look if it would be an outdoor urban playground? Or as a boardgame, a marble run, or a pinball machine? This exploration shows translations of the data system into different types of games that incorporate an element of flow.

I did further research into how childeren are taught about online behavior, social media, and personal data, including the teaching tricks like the feedback loops of popular games, and game elements of pinball machines.

Databall was first prototyped in various shapes of cardboard scale-models. After this in a full size cardboard model, which was used to prototype the initial projections, and the pinball electronics. This model I copied into a 3D drawing to help choose material finishes, colors and details with different renderings. The final digital drawing was then used to prepare drawings for lasercutting of the sheetmetal parts that made the final machine. Several pinball pop-bumper electronics were reverse engineered to fit and work. After lots of metal bending, welding, electrical soldering, designing the projection and sound effects, Databall_ came to life.